Time to Put Aside Our Books and Venture Out as Lockdown Eases

Even those of us who remember living through the Blitz have never experienced anything quite like the first half of 2020. The coronavirus pandemic swept into our lives and we seemed to have been transported into the middle of a real-life disaster story.

Of course, life only imitates art to a certain extent. Those bizarre weeks in late March when shops were rationing out essential supplies certainly had an apocalyptic feel to them. But mostly, the period of lockdown has been a low-key and boring affair of enforced isolation in our homes.

Catching up on the reading

There has been plenty of talk about how technology has been our saviour and helped to keep us sane. It’s true that Zoom calls and Netflix have eased the monotony. But for even more people, this period of quiet has served as an opportunity to catch up on some long-overdue reading.

In fact, news outlets have reported that people have been turning to books in greater numbers than ever during lockdown. Waterstones reported a 400 percent increase in online sales during lockdown, proving that books and the digital age can be effective bedfellows.

Sir Simon Schama is one of the country’s most respected authorities on literature and the arts. Speaking online at the Hay Festival Digital, he said he was not surprised that so many of us have been turning to our books over recent weeks. He said: “Reading is a state of freedom - the freedom of the mind, the freedom of the imagination, and there is no better cure to feeling nailed to the spot than reading."

Reading about travel

Sir Simon described reading as travel for the mind. Some of us saw lockdown as an opportunity to finally attack those classic works they had never quite got around to. Imagine how many people took copies of War and Peace from the shelf with the words “Well, if I don’t read it now, I never will,” and were transported to Imperial Russia.

Others, however, took the travel theme rather more literally and spent their time reading about what they would do and where they would go when this whole nightmare was over. As the UK gradually reopens, those historic country homes, National Trust treasures and traditional seaside resorts that came to life in books can at last be explored for real.

Staying cautious

Of course, caution is still necessary, especially for those who were subject to special shielding during lockdown. Those reliant on walking aids like rollators or Zimmer frames should check access, and this is one area in which the internet can trump books, when it comes to getting the very latest information.

Checking which locations can accommodate wheelchair users and those with walking sticks, wheeled walkers and so on is important. But just as vital is ensuring that appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures are in place. After all, these places have been around for hundreds of years – if in doubt, they will still be there a few months down the line. And in the meantime, we always have our books. 

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